Teamsters Women's conference kicks off in New Orleans
(Source: International Brotherhood of Teamsters press release, September 19, 2013)
NEW ORLEANS, La. — The 2013 Teamsters Women’s Conference kicked off in New Orleans on Thursday, uniting 1,000 Teamster women across the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico in the spirit of solidarity.
“What a great conference. This conference keeps growing. It gets bigger and better every year,” said Jim Hoffa, Teamsters General President, to one of the largest attendances in the conference’s history.
Hoffa told the crowd that it’s as important as ever that Teamsters organize, fight for working people and vote for politicians that will stand with workers.
“We need political activists. We need to fight right-to-work. I can’t stress to you how important it is that you vote,” Hoffa said.
Hoffa helped kick off the three-day conference which features an impressive program of speakers, dozens of educational workshops and union-building activities for Teamsters from Alaska to Puerto Rico and everywhere in between.
Hoffa opened the conference by introducing Becky Strzechowski, the new director of the Women’s Conference, while honoring Sue Mauren, who led the conference for four years until her retirement last year.
“I am honored to continue Sue’s good work and excited to lead this conference that General President Hoffa started 13 years ago,” said Strzechowski, who is also an International Vice President for the Central Region and President of Local 700 in Chicago.
“’New Day, New Power, New Orleans,’ that’s the theme of this year’s conference. Times are changing and we face more and more challenges. It’s so important as a Teamster, whether you are a man or a woman, to get involved in your union,” Strzechowski said.
Strzechowski noted that while Teamster contracts support equal pay and treat men and women equally, unorganized workers across the U.S. and Canada are suffering.
“Corporations, corporate-backed politicians and organizations like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) are teaming up. They’re pushing legislation that hurts workers. Right-to-work is meant to weaken unions, and takes the jobs we have and slashes wages and benefits,” Strzechowski said. “Nothing beats the fierce determination of Teamster women. We are going to have renewed power when we return home to our locals to fight back.”
Strzechowski took time on stage to recognize W.C. Smith, Secretary-Treasurer of Joint Council 87, and Dave Negrotto, President of Local 270 in New Orleans, the hosts of this year’s conference, as well as a number of International Vice Presidents in attendance.
Donna Brazile, an academic, author and political analyst, as well as New Orleans native, fired up the crowd with a heartfelt and impassioned speech, urging Teamsters to battle anti-worker forces who are “picking on” working people. The proud card-carrying union member and cousin of a Local 270 member told the audience that she will never forget her Mississippi River roots, calling on Teamsters to “never get weary of doing good.”
“It’s a new day, ladies, and you’ve got the power to change the world. We’re going to drive these anti-labor governors out all across America in 2014,”Brazile said. “You don’t need permission to fight. You don’t need permission to organize. Grow this union, grow this Women’s Conference, register everyone you know. Do not be afraid to talk about politics. I have faith in you and solidarity with you.”
The 2013 Teamsters Women’s Conference continues through Saturday. Follow up-to-the-minute coverage of the conference on www.teamster.org, “Teamsters” on Facebook and @Teamsters on Twitter.
Friday, September 20, 2013